Philly: Dinner at Zahav
While researching restaurants in Philadelphia, I got it in my head I had to try the Israeli restaurant, Zahav. It’s one of the best restaurants in Philly and it was impossible to get a reservation. We decided our best bet was to walk into the bar when they opened. We got there on the dot at 5 p.m. and every seat was taken except two. It was our lucky day.
It turned out it was also Restaurant Week which probably explained why they were so booked up.
We decided to get a couple of drinks to start then get to work on the Restaurant Week tasting menu.
I had the intriguing Marble Rye and my friend had the Sunset View. It was nearly sundown and it was extremely appropriate.
Marble Rye – pumpernickel and caraway infused rye, celery
Sunset View – rum, Aperol, Aveze, lemon
The Israeli equivalent of mezze is salatim. We had 6 different dishes including cucumber salad, corn, eggplant and more. We really had a good time eating this and was even starting to get full off bread and veggies. But we knew we had a bunch of things coming so we kept some off to the side which was good to eat with the grilled meat dishes later.
Hummus came with the appetizers. Zahav’s is nice and creamy.
Next each person orders two small plates (which are actually called mezze). I ordered the chicken pastilla (bastila) and duck hearts while my friend got the tomato salad and kibbe naya. The kitchen also sent out a couple extra plates for us so we got the fried cauliflower and crispy haloumi.
I always enjoy pastilla quite a bit. The chicken is stuffed into phyllo dough and deep fried. What’s not to love?
My friend went nuts for the tomato salad. While I liked it, I felt I’ve had better at my local fave falafel shop, Madcapra in Downtown Los Angeles.
I love certain organ meats and hearts are definitely one of them. Duck hearts I discovered are massive and I really enjoyed these rare.
My tartare loving friend naturally would like the kibbe naya, the raw lamb that’s been missed with harissa and bulgur.
I found the crispy haloumi very interesting with the nectarine sauce. It’s a much lighter dish than I thought it would be and probably why I hadn’t considered it initially when I ordered my two mezze.
My friend wanted another drink and the bartender said the Lemonana was very popular. It is a very refreshing drink and since the weather was so warm in the fall, this was perfect.
Lemonana – whiskey, lemon verbena, muddled mint, lemon
For our al ha’esh picks (entrees), the meats and vegetables are grilled over coals. I chose the classic beef which was even served with a grilled tomato. The sirloin was very tender.
I also liked the chicken which also had nectarines. It must have been peak stone fruit season since we had the fruit in the appetizers to the main to dessert.
We had not only saved some of our salatim but we saved our fried cauliflower from the mezze section to go with our meat dishes. I enjoyed the fried cauliflower but felt it didn’t really need the garlic mint yogurt sauce.
The grilled meats came with a rice pilaf. The rice was so fluffy. It went great with our meal.
Just as we thought we couldn’t eat anymore, we were reminded we had dessert coming. Someone sitting next to us at the bar said dessert (and wine) were her favorite things at Zahav.
We had the peach sorbet with jasmine rice and ground cherries. I thought the sunflower seeds were pretty cool.
And there’s nectarine again. The malabi custard was served with nectarines and brown butter. It turned out to be a very light dessert which was great after our huge meal.
I definitely enjoyed this modern Israeli cooking and loved going into Old Philly and its cobblestone streets to seek it out.
Zahav237 St James Pl., Philadelphia, PA 19106 — (215) 625-8800 © The Minty 2017